Travel | January 17, 2023 5:10 pm

Lounges Are Quickly Becoming the Hottest Airport Amenity

They're not just for business travelers anymore

An airport lounge interior. Once the express domain of business travelers, airport lounges are now taking off with a wider array of fliers.
You don't need to be a business traveler to take advantage of airport lounges.
Getty

Per a 2018 study from HSBC, among people who fly at least once a year, the average person takes around 6.5 flights in that 12-month period. This was pre-pandemic, thus probably inconsistent with current trends, but what it means is that — if people were getting to the airport the recommended two hours early for domestic flights, or three hours for international — they were spending anywhere from 13 to 20 hours in airports annually. And that’s not even taking into consideration all of the frequent fliers, and the dads who made their families arrive five hours ahead of departure, who spent exponentially more time there.

Which is why it should come as a surprise to no one that airport lounges are quickly becoming the most coveted of all airport amenities, even in spite of the high cost of entry. According to Airport Dimensions’ new Airport Experience Research, 57% of frequent fliers reported having spent some time in an airport lounge during their air travel journey. And demand is only growing.

Further, these lounges are no longer dominated by business travelers. The data, as originally reported by Travel Pulse, shows that more and more leisure travelers are seeking refuge in lounges, but exclusively for entertainment. In fact, while 56% of lounge users reported utilizing them for their “business facilities,” another 78% claimed they like them for the food options, and an additional 68% said they just like the “leisure amenities” — and almost all of them were fine to pay more for them.

The Unexpected Return of the Airport Hotel

Unsexy? Maybe. Practical? Undisputedly, yes.

There are a few ways to get in on the lounge action, the first being fare type. According to the study, 25% of travelers who use lounges are first- and business-class passengers. Others have complimentary access, courtesy of loyalty programs or thanks to their credit card of choice. Another 19% had elite status with a specific airline, while 18% said they paid for a day-pass or equivalent (which generally costs $25-$75).

“The line between the lounge and traditional airport commerce is blurring,” Stephen Hay, global strategy director of Airport Dimensions, said. “While airports in the past have seen lounges as somewhat of a black hole for retail spend, it is now clear that they have the potential to become solid drivers of revenue.”

In other words: let there be lounges.